Creative potential behind Wildscapes: An Interview with Ehren Fritz Gerhard

We never know what is next.

Lilidiana Cruz: Do you consider that you have reached maturity as an artist? Why?

Ehren Fritz Gerhard: Initially I would say never because there’s always more, but I’ve devoted thousands of hours to developing just specifically painting my craft in the way that defining my intentions as an artist. What do I want the viewer to focus on is, is takes a lot of time to, to trial and error and work that out. So I feel like that sort of that concept of my intention is, developed and matured, but it may always change.

It’s always, it’s gonna continue changing and each new artwork that I make inspires me to make the next one and say, oh, what I do the next, all of that, what if I do that one? I never know what is next and you have to try. It is hard to keep it excited about the next work. So when the more that you make things, the more ambitious you are the next time and the more you learn from each one. It’s never ending, we’ll keep ripening on the vine here for a few more years.

Definitely music.

Lilidiana Cruz: Do you have any special routine or ritual when you are creating?

Ehren Fritz Gerhard: It could be definitely music, to have something playing. It’s either gonna go one or two directions depending on what I’m working on, calming classical music or loud upbeat music. Like really, almost dance type movement, like a lot of high, high rhythms and things like that. Sometimes you need to get the energy going enough to get that, some of those paintings have a lot of energy in them. A lot of movement and bold marks and things like that. So I might need to be in that mood to make that mark, like to really get in that mindset. Sometimes I need it upbeat energizing or if I’m working on a more detailed piece or a certain stage of the work, it may be more calming, quiet, relaxing music but if it’s late at night, I normally need it to be upbeat. So I stay awake.

The other thing I’ll do is, if the painting is really big, it’s physically exhausting. it’s very difficult to move around a canvas that large. I’ll do warm ups, the exercises and warm ups and stretches before I start. And then the other thing that I’ll work on this is more of like a process while I’m creating, I’m working on several paintings at once. It may be four or five, six paintings all at the same time. And I work on one at a time, but I just rotate them out. So I’ll do one. They all kind of go simultaneously like different stages of them, like the beginning to the middle to the end. So they’re all, I don’t sit down and finish one painting and then start on the next, I’ll start a lot of them, four or five or six paintings, do them all in the first stage and then put them away for the night and then come back to them. So they’re all, I’m in the same sort of stage of mindset because sometimes certain stages may have more detail or drawing elements and then others may just be color and, and things like that. It helps me to keep my head in the, same space of knowing kind of where I’m at.

That’s an interesting thing that I’ve learned that through print making. It is a way of having several pieces simultaneously and making a collage work in terms of a technique. If you’re working on one painting and you’re devoting all your time on it, sometimes that you get, it’s harder to see some of the things that you’ve been looking at the same. Imagine looking at the same photograph for hours and hours, sometimes you need to sort of change and think about something else. So that helps me be more productive to get more done in the time frame because I’m constantly changing my expectations of learning, trying out different things.

Other people’s stories.

Lilidiana Cruz: Besides the obvious things like vandalism to the works and the approach of people with bad attitude, what of the things that happen in exhibitions do you hate? And on the other hand what do you love , besides also the obvious.

Ehren Fritz Gerhard: This is interesting because I’ve exhibited my work a lot. It’s always different when you’re exhibiting your own work. But I’ve also been a gallery director for five, seven years. So I’ve done monthly exhibitions and opening receptions of different work. I’ve seen a lot, some of them bigger and with mine, I mean, they’re paintings, they’re on the wall. I mean, I don’t care if people touch it. Like, I’m not that uptight about any of that stuff, but with other shows, certain things like if it’s just going to one of it is just education, obviously knowing how to approach the work, how to act in a museum or a gallery. The opening reception, especially in the smaller galleries, it’s a celebration. Everybody’s having fun. It’s a party. So it’s gonna get rowdy, loud, wine may be spilled…

Some of the things that I’ve seen over the years is one thing that bothers me, is there’s some people who only come to eat the free food so that, they know there’s an opening reception. They come and they fill up a plate and then they leave. They don’t even look at the artwork and I’ll see them at different openings around town and they just come and they eat, I mean, it’s fun. I encourage my students to go because they can get free dinner. Artists live off of cheese. Once a month we go do our gallery openings, receptions and you go four, five, six galleries and by the end of the night, you’re full, you’ve had wine, cheese and you’re good. For a starving artist, it’s very important to go to openings because you get to see art, you get to meet people and you get to have a free meal.

The other thing is, and this is hard too, I have to remind myself about it: People not looking at an individual artwork for long enough. I mean, this becomes more, more and more difficult because we’re used to very rapid image. Like scrolling and looking at our phones. The average time that we spend with an image is a couple seconds or something like that on social media. Looking at an art work is a very different, you have to sort of slow yourself down and I still have to remind myself, ok, take your time. Let’s look at the different elements. Not just say, oh, I don’t like this color, but really just spend some time with each work and we all have to remind ourselves to do that. I feel like you get a better enjoyment. Even if any of the other thing, it’s not important that you like it.

Sometimes you don’t have to like it. I did a lot of education with the gallery as well with people who didn’t have art background, had been to museums and it’s ok to not like something. You can still sort of see and it’s important to know why you don’t like it. So you get into some things like that and recognizing and that’s why it’s nice to spend time with the artwork. Sometimes opinions will change once you hear the story behind it. It’s hard to give an artwork, two seconds. We’re really just going to be very, subjective on our, and biased on our opinions of color and shape and things like that and subject matter.

Oh! I hate still life. So I’m not even gonna look at that work you know, and then the other thing, touching artwork. That’s another human thing that especially pieces. There’s some artwork that just screams, it wants to be touched and you can’t help it. But sometimes that’s ok, sometimes it’s not. I’ve even seen people rest, drinks like wine and stuff like that on pedestals with sculptures on them. That that’s pretty obnoxious, but putting your wine on the pedestal with the artwork on it…

Lilidiana Cruz: After said that, I have to ask: Do you prefer the big galleries or small ones?

Ehren Fritz Gerhard: The smaller community galleries and things like that, it’s obviously much more casual atmosphere, but still, I’ve had chills with very expensive artwork on a, like a like this thing.

What things that I love about them? And this is for any opening. But really with my work too, I’ve had really great experiences of people sharing their stories and experiences that maybe the artwork reminds them of, and in particular. I had a painting of an elk, a large portrait. It was probably four by three by four ft tall, this big giant elk head. And um someone had actually been charged by an elk. And they brought me aside in the gallery and they said this painting is, it was just evoking that experience again. And then all the other ones, different stories of people’s experiences or places they’ve been and sharing all that love of nature and it could be as well. So that for me is always the most fun, is hearing people’s stories.

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